It was Christmas Eve.
Gun-Ho put on a dress suit with a tie. He then wore a coat before leaving his condo. He didn't forget to take liquor with him as a gift for Young-Eun's father as advised by Artist Choi. He chose two bottles of Maotai and put them in his Land Rover. On the way to Young-Eun's father's home, Gun-Ho stopped by a bakery around the Sillim station and bought a large cake.
The condo where Young-Eun's father was living looked old.
"She said his unit is on the sixth floor, right?"
Gun-Ho entered the elevator and pressed six. When he arrived at the door, he rang the doorbell. No one answered. Gun-Ho made a call to Young-Eun.
"Hi, it's me. I'm at the door."
A second later, someone opened the door. It was Young-Eun. She was wearing jeans.
"What are these?"
Young-Eun looked surprised while taking two bottles of Maotai and a cake that Gun-Ho handed to her. While inside the condo, it looked simple. It was about 25 pyung large. Young-Eun led him to the living room and let him sit on a sofa.
"Is your father not here?"
Young-Eun opened the master bedroom's door and said to someone inside, "He is here, dad."
A man who looked like he was in his late 60s came out. He looked a bit slim.
Gun-Ho stood up and gave a 90-degree bow to the man.
"Please have a seat."
Young-Eun brought some green tea.
Young-Eun's father looked shy for some reason.
"How long have you seeing my daughter Young-Eun?"
"It has been six months, sir."
"Are both of your parents alive?"
Young-Eun prepared some fruits and placed them on the table. Young-Eun's father said while picking up a piece of an apple, "Please take some apple."
"So, you are running a business?"
"What kind of business do you have?"
"It's a manufacturing company of automobile parts."
"Hmm, then you must have a factory as well."
"Yes, the factory is located in Jiksan Town in Cheonan City."
"Is Jiksan Town part of Cheonan City?"
"Yes, it is."
Young-Eun was carefully listening to the conversation between her father and Gun-Ho.
"How many employees do you have?"
"There are 250 workers in that location."
Young-Eun's father looked surprised. Young-Eun's eyes, who was sitting next to her father, widened in surprise as well.
"Hmm. It must be a big company. You said your last name is Goo?"
"Which area does your family name originate from?"
"It's from Neungseong in South Jeolla Province."
"Hmm, I see. Our last name Kim is from Gimhae City in South Gyeongsan Province."
Young-Eun brought the cake that Gun-Ho bought for them and asked her father, "Dad, do you want me to put it on the table?"
"Oh, you bought a cake. It's too big for us. I'm not sure if we can even finish it; there are only two of us."
Young-Eun said while pointing at the liquor, "Dad, he brought them too."
"What are those? Ohhh, they are Maotai. Those are very expensive liquor!"
"Oh, are they expensive?"
Young-Eun looked at the label of Maotai.
"Oh, I heard you went to college in China. Which school did you go to?"
"It's Zhejiang University in Zhejiang Province."
"Oh, Zhejiang Province! What did you study there?"
"I majored in economics."
"Oh, I see. That's why you are running your own business. You must speak Chinese very well. Can you read the words over there?"
Young-Eun's father pointed a frame hanging on the wall.
"Yes, sir. It says, Yoo Deock Yoo Lin (meaning: there is a good neighbor where virtue is present)."
"How do you read it in Chinese?"
"It's 'you de you lin'."
"You de you lin? I guess they read the last letter as 'lin' as we do."
Young-Eun's father and Young-Eun seemed to be interested in Gun-Ho's Chinese.
"Well, let me see. We have a guest here today, Young-Eun. Let's order some food. If you look at the refrigerator door, you will see the phone numbers of several restaurants. Call them and place an order of some roasted chicken and Jokbal*."
"You don't need to, sir. I already ate."
"Well, in that case, Young-Eun, bring me some dried snacks from the dining table. Also, bring me two empty glasses from the cabinet."
As Young-Eun brought two empty glasses with some dried snacks, her father opened a bottle of Maotai.
Young-Eun's father filled up one glass with Maotai and handed it to Gun-Ho. Gun-Ho took it with two hands.
"Hmm, this is very nice."
It seemed that Young-Eun's father really liked the taste of Maotai. As he drank more and more, he seemed to feel relaxed and at ease. He started talking in a more friendly and informal way to Gun-Ho.
"Please drink it. Bottoms up."
Gun-Ho took the glass and turned his head slightly to the side before drinking it. He tried to comply with the manner and etiquette that he could think of in drinking with a person who was older than him.
"So, this is Maotai. Let me have a sip."
Young-Eun brought one more empty glass for her.
"Wow, it must be very strong liquor. I can literally smell alcohol!"
Young-Eun frowned as she took a sip. Young-Eun's father became talkative once he drank several glasses of liquor. Young-Eun placed the cake on the table and lit candles. Young-Eun suggested singing a Christmas carol, and they sang together.
"I feel like I now have a son."
Gun-Ho thought that bringing liquor to Young-Eun's father was a stroke of genius as advised by Artist Choi.
Young-Eun cut the cake into several pieces and placed three pieces on three small plates. She then placed them on the table with forks. They drank Maotai with a piece of cake. Gun-Ho thought that Young-Eun's father was a nave man even though he was in his late 60s. He sometimes asked some questions to Gun-Ho, which could be raised by children. Maybe, that was because her father spent most of his life with children in an elementary school by teaching them.
"When Young-Eun was in school, she was an excellent student. She never created any trouble. She was ranked first in her class. When Young-Eun told me that she would bring someone who she would marry, I felt mixed feelings. I was of course absolutely happy for her, but also sad that I had to let her go. You have my blessing. I want you to make a happy life together. That will make your parents and me happy."
"I will keep that in mind, father."
Without realizing it, Gun-Ho was referring to Young-Eun's father as father.
Young-Eun's father seemed to enjoy drinking liquor. Gun-Ho thought that maybe because he was living by himself after losing his wife, and he probably wanted to ease his pain and loneliness with liquor. Gun-Ho would turn 37 years old soon, and he was old enough to understand an old man's life.
"What did your father do for a living before he retired?"
"He used to work in a small company in Incheon City."
"I think your parents were very able people since they supported your study abroad. They must be great parents."
"I wish Young-Eun's mother was here with us. Since her mother passed away while she was still young, she didn't learn much about how to do house chores. Her aunt taught her some, but still, she is not good at it. I hope you understand."
"Don't worry about it."
Young-Eun said while frowning, "Dad, stop drinking. You had enough for today. Mr. Gun-Ho Goo needs to go home."
"Oh, really? What time is it?"
Gun-Ho stood up and said, "Father, I had a great time today. Thank you for inviting me over."
Gun-Ho gave a deep bow to Young-Eun's father.
"I will see you again soon, sir."
"It was nice meeting you, son. Young-Eun, show him downstairs."
Young-Eun walked down to the building entrance with Gun-Ho.
"Do you think your father liked me?"
"I think so since he drank a lot."
"I do like your father too. He seems very scholarly."
Gun-Ho extended his hand to Young-Eun to hold her hand and say goodbye. Gun-Ho walked off the building for a while and turned around. Young-Eun was still standing at the building entrance and was watching him leave. Gun-Ho waved at her and Young-Eun waved back at him.
Jokbal Korean dish made of pig's trotters with soy sauce.